Protein Perceptions

You’ve probably noticed the growing number of commercials for plant and cell based products.  They are hard to miss.  A lot of money is being poured into their production and their promotion.  Time will tell if this is just a fad or if they are here to stay.  Personally I don’t plan to try any of them but I respect a consumer’s right to make that choice.  I feel the same way about organic products.  Long term a growing global demand for protein probably assures a big enough market for both lab and conventionally produced products.  However in the short term these products could cut into profit margins for livestock and dairy producers.  Makers of these new products are enjoying a couple of advantages that they are putting to good use.  FDA has not enforced laws to protect names like dairy and milk which has led to consumer confusion about what is being purchased. That has allowed makers of these new products to benefit from the trust and credibility built up by dairy producers over the years.  Hopefully FDA will start enforcing existing laws to address that issue.  Perhaps an even bigger challenge to dairy and meat producers however is the perception that these new products will save the planet.  Consumers concerned about the environment and not familiar with agriculture and food production are more willing to try a product when they believe it is helping address something they are concerned about.  Adding to the challenge for the livestock industry is the number of well known companies willing to devote big advertising budgets to promote these new products.  Ag groups can’t compete with those budgets and there doesn’t seem to be a rush by food companies to promote REAL meat and dairy products. Livestock and dairy producers have a great story to tell about their products and production and the need to tell that story is greater than ever.  However as we have seen with GMOs, facts don’t always win the debate.  Ag producers are always seeking a level playing field with other countries.  Now they need one here at home as well.